UX Magazine

Defining and Informing the Complex Field of User Experience (UX)
Article No. 760 November 3, 2011

Retrospective on the Design and Philosophy of Firefox

I recently had the opportunity to speak at BayCHI, where I gave a comprehensive review of the mission, philosophy, and specific heuristics that have guided Firefox's visual and interactive design through versions 3 and 4. This presentation was given at PARC on the eve of Firefox 4's launch.

I opened with a discussion of net neutrality, the underlying ideological roots of the PC industry, and Mozilla's mission to protect the Web. If you aren't that in to Internet freedom (really?), skip on ahead to time marker 9:35 where I describe two conflicting philosophies of UX design, and where Mozilla lands on that spectrum.

At time marker 19:20, I dive into the specific usability principles that have driven Firefox's design. These principles include:

  • external consistency
  • protecting cognitive flow
  • designing an iconic form
  • visual hierarchy
  • landmarks
  • efficiency of use
  • selective visual variables
  • creating a visually consistent conceptual model
  • leveraging spatial memory
  • utilizing usage metrics to streamline and refactor a UI

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

User Profile

Alex Faaborg is a principal designer at Mozilla, where he focuses on the visual and interactive design of Firefox. He also contributes to Mozilla Labs, which explores the next stage in the evolution of the Web and its long term future. He has extensive experience in artificial intelligence, user interface design, and cognitive science and is a graduate of the MIT Media Laboratory.

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